How the whale was preserved

died approximately 11,000 years ago of unknown causes. Whether it died in shallow water and settled to the bottom, or died in deeper water and was washed inland, its body eventually came to rest at the bottom of a quiet bay or estuary in the Champlain Sea. Undisturbed by predators or scavengers large enough to scatter the bones, the whale decomposed and was slowly buried by clay and silt sediments.

of the whale, still in their original orientation, continued to be buried in layers of fine sediment along with the shells of clams and mussels and fragments of plants that inhabited the same waters.

the retreat of the glaciers, glacial rebound lifted the land slowly, raising the whale site above the level of the sea. The marine waters drained back into the retreating ocean and the basin filled with freshwater from the neighboring rivers. Plants and trees colonized the land, while caribou and elk roamed in great herds. Native Americans came into the area from the south and began to cultivate the area for agriculture. This is the land that was first seen by Samuel de Champlain when he sailed into the valley in 1609.

during construction of the Burlington-Rutland railroad, workers discovered the skull of an unusual animal while cutting through a small hill to lay track. Although the skull was largely destroyed in the digging, the rest of the skeleton was preserved, essentially intact. Zadock Thompson of the University of Vermont was called to identify the animal and to remove the bones from layers of sand, silt and clay.

Return to How Did A Whale Get In Vermont?

Return to Directory of Exhibits or UVM Home Page.


Send questions, comments, changes, and additions to and